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    Another threat to RTI. Now from the Data Privacy panel

      The Justice Srikrishna panel on data protection has called for amending the Right to Information Act to restrict non-disclosure of information only in cases where harm to an individual outweighs the common good of transparency and accountability in the fu

    In its 213-page report (external link) that calls for a new legislation to protect an individual's right over his data, the committee said neither the right to privacy nor the right to information is absolute and the two will have to be balanced against each other in some circumstances.

    The panel said data protection law is designed to limit the processing of personal data to legitimate reasons and adds there is a conflict between transparency and privacy. 

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    The panel said a lot of information sought from a public authority may contain personal data of some kind or another.

    "Further a strict interpretation of purpose limitation may give rise to the inference that any disclosure other than for the purpose for which the personal data was submitted would lead to an unwarranted invasion of privacy," it said.

    "To avoid this predicament, the RTI Act must specifically spell out the circumstances in which disclosure of such personal information would be a proportionate restriction on privacy having regard to the object of the RTI Act in promoting transparency and accountability in public administration.

    "This must be done keeping in mind the fact that the RTI Act generally leans in favour of disclosure of information," it said. 

    "Therefore, in addition to the likelihood of harm, disclosure should be restricted only where any likely harm outweighs the common good of transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities," the report said.

    It proposed that the RTI Act be amended to state that 'nothing contained in the data protection bill will apply to the disclosure' so as to 'prevent privacy from becoming a stonewalling tactic to hinder transparency'. The Committee said that such a formulation offers a more precise balancing test in reconciling the two rights and upholding the spirit of the RTI Act without compromising the intent of the data protection bill.



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